MDWFP Officers Receive Top National Wild Turkey Federation President’s Award for Effort in Operation Longbeard – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

Thanks to the diligence of current and retired MDWFP conservation officers, and information provided by various sportsmen and landowners, the officers were able to set up what is believed to be the largest wild turkey poaching ring in the history – Operation Longbeard.

After collecting extensive evidence through media devices as well as property searches in Mississippi, it was determined that state and federal wildlife violations had occurred in three states: Mississippi, Kansas, and Nebraska. Operation Longbeard led to the arrest of 15 people and revealed nearly 100 wild turkeys were killed in the spring of 2019.

After logging approximately 3,500 hours of work in this investigation, officers were able to file a total of 286 wildlife-related state charges as well as 12 federal charges. In addition to the wildlife-related charges, Operation Longbeard has led to several other active investigations and convictions of other offenders for crimes such as felon possession of a weapon, commercial fishing violations, trespassing and drug-related violations.

The MDWFP conservation officers who led the investigation, Master Sergeant Randy Cooley, Lt. Sheila Smith and Sergeant Major Jake Guess, have been recognized by local and national media as well as the U.S. Department of Justice . Most recently, the three officers received the inaugural National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) CEO/President Award at the NWTF Conference in Nashville, TN. Our officers had the opportunity to present the case as well as some of the tactics used in the investigation to other state conservation officers.

Sharon P. Juarez